Soap, Detergents and Polymers: Environmental Problems and Biodegradable Polymers (For CBSE, ICSE, IAS, NET, NRA 2022)

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Polyester

Some synthetic polymers have ester group in them. These are condensation polymers.

Terelene

It is a polymer obtained by the condensation reaction between ethyl- ene glycol and terephthalic acid.

Polyester or Terelene

Terelene is resistant to the action of most of the common chemicals and biological substances and also to abrasion. It has a low moisture absorbing power. As such it is widely used in making wash and wear fabrics.

Polyamide

Polyamides are the polymers having amide group in them. The important polyamide is Nylon-66 which is a synthetic polymer. In nature also the polymer have amide linkages in their molecules.

Nylon – 66

It is a polymer of adipic acid (tetra methylene dicarboxylic acid) and hexamethylene diamine.

Nylon – 66

Nylon – 66 (read as nylon – six-six) can be cast into a sheet or Fibres by spinning devices. Nylon Fibres have high tensile strength. They are tough and resistant to abrasion. They are also somewhat elastic in nature.

Biopolymers

Many polymers which are present in plants and animals such as polysaccharides (starch, cellulose) , proteins and nucleic acids etc. which control various life processes in plants and animals are called biopolymers.

  • Starch: It is polymer of glucose. It is a chief food reserve of plants.
  • Cellulose: It is also a polymer of glucose. It is a chief structural material of the plants. Both starch and cellulose are made by plants from glucose produced during photosynthesis.
  • Proteins: These are polymers of amino acids. They have generally 20 to 1000 amino acids joined together in a highly organized arrangement. These are building blocks of animals and constitute an essential part of our food.
  • Nucleic acids: These are polymers of various nucleotides. For example, RNA and DNA are common nucleotides. These biopolymers are very essential for our life.

Environmental Problems

  • With the increasing use of polymers, the problem of disposal of waste of these products is posing alarming curse.
  • Since most of the synthetic polymers are in the form of plastics, it is frequently used in abundance in the form of packing material and throw away bags.
  • Since ordinary polymers do not degrade naturally by light, oxygen, water or micro-organisms, there is a serious problem of their disposal.

Solution

  • The environmental problems caused by careless use of non-biodegradable polymers can be reduced by proper disposal of these materials and reusing them and remolding them for other uses.
  • Another way is to collect them and depolymerize them back to monomers.
  • Another option is to produce biodegradable polymers which can be broken into small segments by enzyme-catalysed reactions. The required enzymes are produced by micro-organisms.

Biodegradable Polymers

A large number of biodegradable polymers are now available, and more are being added to the list. However, these are expensive.

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